Monday morning quarterbacks will tell you that the San Jose Earthquakes failed to put up a fight in their 3-0 defeat to New York City FC on Sunday. But those who watched intently, including NYCFC head coach Ronny Delia, will tell a different tale.
In a league that heavily favors home teams, in fact more than any other top-flight professional soccer league in the world, NYCFC were always going to be favorites. Additionally, the defending MLS Cup champions had won back-to-back matches and scored 11 goals in victories over Real Salt Lake (6-0) and Toronto FC (5-4).
The Earthquakes, led by interim head coach Alex Covelo, would have to figure out a solution to NYC’s red-hot offense, and do it without center back Nathan due to a one-game suspension.
San Jose not only created several scoring opportunities throughout the match, particularly in the first half, but also kept the home side off the scoreboard for more than 70 minutes. Rather than bunkering, Covelo felt there were points to be had at Yankee Stadium and made a number of offensive substitutions. NYC’s relentless attack then eventually broke through in the 73rd minute before tacking on a second and third not long after.
“First of all, San Jose were really well organized,” Deila said. “They were really hard to play against. This is the best opponent we’ve had in this stadium this season so far in my opinion. We had to be at our best, we had to be patient, we had to stay disciplined. It’s easy when you don't take your chances in the first half to be stressed and lose organization. I think it was our best performance this year. At the break we changed the formation a little bit because the press was giving us some problems.”
Delia commended San Jose for their organization and even calls the team its most difficult opponent so far at Yankee Stadium, which includes East leaders Philadelphia Union, the Montreal Impact, and Real Salt Lake, all three of which are currently top-10 teams in the Supporters’ Shield race.
“This result is a lot less disheartening than it may feel in the moment,” said Alex Morgan of Quakes Epicenter following the match. “I actually thought for the majority of this game, it was a really solid performance from the Quakes. They went to New York, played some classy Cosmopolitan soccer, in my opinion, were going toe-to-toe with New York City, and they lost a little bit of focus at the end. They lost defensive focus, New York City outlasted them, outplayed them especially in the second half. But I never felt at any point that New York City had outcoached them or had a better plan than they had. It just felt like small margins at the end of the game where New York City had slightly more quality. I think they had a little bit of luck with some of their chances going in the back of the net. So even though it’s a disappointing 3-0 loss, I’m not incredibly concerned about this result. I’m taking away a lot of positives from this performance.”
Trey Fillmore of Blue Balls NYCFC Podcast also had some words of positivity for one Quakes player in particular:
“I do have to mention that No. 15, [Tanner] Beason – there’s been one player in this whole league that has shut down Taty Castellanos for a whole game, and that’s Walker Zimmerman. And Beason in this match, at least here live from the press box, I’ve never seen another player, except for Zimmerman, shut down Taty Castellanos and frustrate him like he did today. I think he played out of his mind. I was really impressed.”
Despite being a left-footed center back playing on the right side, Beason was influential in Castellanos’ absence on the scoresheet. Castellanos, a 2021 MLS MVP finalist, had scored five goals in his last two appearances but was kept without a goal or assist on Sunday.
The Earthquakes will now host the Colorado Rapids on Saturday, May 7, presented by Audi. Kickoff from PayPal Park is scheduled for 7 p.m. PT and the match will be broadcast on NBC Sports California, KNBR 1050, and 1370 KZSF.